It’s too easy to escape the Hatch Act (comment)

In June 2019, a federal watchdog accused Conway, then a top White House supporter, of violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits most members of the Governing Branch from entering. engage in party political activity while in office. The group, the Office of Special Advisers, said Conway had violated the Hatch Act several times and should be fired.
This was the second time she had been called for breaking that law, and she had already signed up for it with a spying response. “Let me know when the prison sentence begins,” she told reporters, her voice flowing with bitterness.

Maybe it’s time for Congress to impose the penalty Conway proposed.

Has any administration been clearer about avoiding the Hatch Act than Donald Trump?

Fourteen of its members have been found to have broken the law more than 50 times, and at least another 22 are under investigation for nearly 100 more violations, according to an October report by -work Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. And that was before the Office of Special Advisers issued a report last week accusing White House trade representative Peter Navarro of breaking the act. On Wednesday, the OSC said Navarro had indeed done so again during the primary campaign.

The list of alleged Hatch Act violators reported to the Office of Special Advisers reads as a litany scorn for the rule of law.

After initially stating that he did not “intend to enter politics,” for example, Attorney General William Barr went on to tell a columnist in Chicago in September, if Trump lost the election, “we were going to find ourselves recklessly committed to the socialist” path. “Such an application for a particular candidate by a government official while acting in the official capacity is expressly prohibited by the act.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed a Republican National Convention while on a diplomatic official visit to Israel, and the OSC launched a probe on possible violations of the Hatch Act. A State Department spokesman told CNN that they expected the complaint to be “strongly rejected” by the OSC similar to the previous Hatch Act complaint earlier this year.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf then appeared in a video swearing citizenship to a small group of immigrants with Trump watching. The video was broadcast later during the Republican National Convention, the highest-profile political event on the election season calendar – and the one at which Trump was officially named for a second term.
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Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was calling for Trump’s re-election on an official visit to meet with farmers in North Carolina.
In July, the Office of Special Advisers had sent a letter to Navarro saying it was being investigated for its criticism of 2020 Democratic primary school vice-president and candidate Joe Biden in an interview with Fox News. But instead of being under the control of that letter, Navarro went to Fox a month later to trash Biden again.

Also accused by private watchdogs of disregarding the law is Ivanka Trump, the daughter of the President, who has been a top White House adviser.

“What we are seeing now is completely unique,” ​​Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told the Washington Post in October. “The overall co-option of the federal government to keep a president in power … something we have never done before.”
Trump administration officials – or any other administration, for that matter – can get away with such disrespect of the law because the penalties for doing so are so light. Penalties include restitution, suspension or removal from work, contempt, prohibition from holding any federal government position for five years and a fine of up to $ 1,000.
In addition, the process for enforcing these sanctions was withdrawn by the White House. Under the current definition of the law, cases brought by the office of the special adviser against professional civil servants are judged by a discriminatory body called the Board of Protection of Merit Systems in which three members are appointed by the ‘President and confirmed by the Senate. For now, however, that board has no members, as Trump has not filled vacancies.
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The President imposes sanctions against political officials. During his term, Trump has refused to punish anyone despite a recommendation from the U.S. Office of Special Advisers to do so.

The White House has said that many of these acts took place at the private time of these officials. But Perdue and Wolf ‘s actions took place as part of their official duties, and Wolf has said he did not know that the video of swearing in the group of new citizens would be used at the convention. The law specifically prohibits officials involved in national security, such as the Secretary of State, from “actively participating in the political governance of a political campaign,” which the Office of Special Advisers has said is including “making campaign speeches,” or engaging in partisan political activity whether or not they are off-the-clock.

A more convincing explanation for stamping the law came from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows who told reporters “no one outside the Beltway route cares.”
We should all be concerned when officers abuse their funded positions with taxpayers to apply for a particular candidate and evade, or even ridicule, the law that prohibits such a taxpayer. activity. “It is really a key feature of democracy that you have fair elections where the people can make their decisions countlessly,” Bookbinder said. “When the government itself uses its powers to push to to keep a leader in place, that starts to look like a totalitarian system. ”

The way to make people inside the belt-way is to put some teeth into the hatch act, include a fine lift and prepare for jail time for “Reckless disregard” of the law. Nothing focuses on the minds of officers like their ability to convict criminals and jail.

As this would include criminal penalties, the prosecution of breaches must be removed from a designated main board and placed in the hands of U.S. lawyers who are, at times, independent of House influence. White to appear.

Unlike some of his other initiatives, the incoming Biden administration may have a good chance of getting such reforms through a Republican-controlled Senate. After seeing the disdain the Trump administration has shown for the law, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may be open to the need to curb excessive spending on the part of the Biden team.

Moreover, since the Hatch Act was also violated under former President Barack Obama (see, for example, then Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro in 2016 told Katie Couric “it is very good Hillary Clinton is clearly the most knowledgeable, thoughtful, and has prepared a candidate for our presidency this year, “for which he has been accused by the Office of Special Advisers of bankruptcy; unconsciously ”), McConnell could argue that the reform focuses not only on Trump, but on bipartisan breaches of the law.

Such errors did not occur in earlier administrations anywhere near the extent that they occurred under Trump.

In the coming months, as they clash over issues such as taxation and spending, Biden and McConnell may be looking at ways to show bipartisan cooperation. Hatch Act reform is one place to start.